WADSWORTH — The Wadsworth boys basketball team gave its fans heart palpitations after blowing a double-digit lead for the second time in as many nights.
Look at the bright side: At least the Grizzlies won this time.
Clearly learning from some mistakes — but not all of them — and regrouping like a veteran team Saturday, Wadsworth locked down and pulled away from Buckeye 60-53 in non-league action.
Longtime coach Mike Schmeltzer Jr. was all smiles despite his squad surrendering a 14-point advantage by the midway point of the third quarter. Only one night before, the Grizzlies (6-4) gave up a 13-point spread in a 47-42 loss to Brecksville.
“To be in an almost eery, similar situation as (Friday) night, I watched a team grow from one night,” a beaming Schmeltzer said with daughter Averie in his arms. “That game could have very easily turned like (Friday) night’s game.
“I think it’s a mentality thing. I really do. I don’t know if they learned much just being in that scenario, but it was being out there on the floor and saying, ‘We can’t let this happen again.”’
Other than ill-timed free throw bricks in the fourth quarter, Wadsworth did its job offensively against the Bucks’ matchup 2-3 zone. Baseline cutters were particularly effective as the Grizzlies were 24-for-47 from the floor and 6-for-13 from 3-point range.
Point guard Christian Szalay was the best player on the court with 14 points, eight assists and three steals. Sophomore center Beau Casey (12 points) and junior wing Tony Hewitt (11) combined for 19 points as Wadsworth led 34-25 at halftime, while sophomore guard Carson Risher scored a career-high six in the second half.
The Grizzlies, whose press helped force some of Buckeye’s 16 turnovers, took a nap in the third quarter and the Bucks went on a 15-6 run to tie the game at 40 on a 3-pointer by Mikey Novick (career-high 16 points).
However, Szalay answered with back-to-back threes and Wadsworth never trailed again. Buckeye had a last gasp down 58-51 but went missed 3-pointer, turnover, turnover despite the Grizzlies handing opportunities with two missed front ends of one-and-ones.
“We came together as a group at the end and figured out a way to pull it out,” Szalay said. “Everybody was down, obviously. We wanted to do the right things in this game and keep our composure. It got a little out of hand at one point, but I think it’s a learning moment for us.”
The Bucks, who were outrebounded 25-16, came out a little flat and it cost them dearly, as no one besides Novick or Joey Bartinelli (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) provided more than two points before Wadsworth took a 32-18 lead on a corner 3-pointer by Mitchell Blackburn. Eight turnovers in the second quarter were a contributor.
Luckily for Buckeye, the Grizzlies gift-wrapped a run-starter with a technical foul for throwing an elbow while trying to hold the ball for the final shot of the half. The score was 34-22, but Bartinelli made 1-of-2 free throws with 8.6 seconds left and Braeden Stauffer (11 points) hit a runner shortly before the horn.
The Bucks used that momentum, as Novick stayed hot and Stauffer woke up offensively coming out of the locker room. Buckeye trailed just 51-45 heading into the fourth thanks largely to 16-for-31 shooting.
The momentum ran out, however, as Buckeye shot just 3-for-12 and never threatened again.
“It seemed like every time we got something going, we’d turn the ball over,” said coach Tom Harrington, whose squad followed steals with travels or bad passes on multiple occasions. “To me, they were senseless turnovers — double dribble, not catching the ball clean — and when you turn the ball over (like that), it’s amazing to me that we scored as much as we did.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wadsworth 60, Buckeye 53
WADSWORTH15 19 17 9 — 60
BUCKEYE 11 14 20 8 — 53
Wadsworth — Tony Hewitt 4-2-11, Reid Black 2-2-7, Beau Casey 6-0-12, Jake Justice 1-0-3, Christian Szalay 5-2-14, David Griffin 0-0-0, Jack Simmons 0-0-0, Mitchell Blackburn 1-0-3, David Hardy 2-0-4, Carson Risher 3-0-6, Lucas Mills 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-6-60.
Buckeye — Spencer Imes 2-1-6, Joey Bartinelli 6-3-18, Justin Canedy 1-0-2, Braeden Stauffer 5-0-11, Mikey Novick 5-3-16, Carter Hudak 0-0-0, Michael Doerge 0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-7-53.
3-point goals — Szalay 2, Justice, Hewitt, Blackburn, Black, Bartinelli 3, Novick 3, Imes, Stauffer. Rebounds — Wadsworth 25 (Casey 6), Buckeye 16 (Bartinelli 6). Assists — Wadsworth 14 (Szalay 8), Buckeye 7 (Bartinelli 3). Records — Wadsworth (6-4), Buckeye (5-2). Junior varsity — Wadsworth 47, Buckeye 23.